A national correspondent for The Atlantic and a New York Times #1 bestselling author, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about social and political issues, often through the lens of race in the United States. Coates has received many awards for his writing including the National Magazine Award, the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, the George Polk Award, and the National Book Award for Nonfiction. His most well known pieces include his book Between the World and Me published in 2015 and The Case for Reparations, the cover story for The Atlantic’s June 2014 issue.
Born in 1975, Ta-Nehisi Coates grew up in Northwest Baltimore in a highly politically conscious family. His father was a Black Panther, radical librarian, and independent publisher and his mother was a school teacher who frequently insisted that he write from an early age. The violence that Coates encountered during his upbringing in Baltimore is a prominent feature in both Between the World and Me and an earlier memoir, The Beautiful Struggle.
After graduating from Woodlawn High School, Ta-Nehisi Coates began attending Howard University where he would study for five years before leaving school to pursue journalism. Coates describes Howard University as a personal “Mecca” where he immersed himself in the literature of black racial theorists and met his wife, Kenyatta Matthews. His education has been influential in shaping the nature of his journalism career, which he frequently uses to engage in hard-hitting discussions of racial injustice.
Ta-Nehisi Coates considered writing that would become Between the World and Me for 15 years before completing the book which takes the form of a letter to his son, Samori.
In response to the popularity of Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates gave this sobering comment that simultaneously serves as a call to action:
“There is some group of Americans who are really, really curious to understand how we ended up at this point, where every week it seems like you can turn on your TV and see some sort of abuse being heaped on black people. But I don’t draw the conclusion that it’s, say, a critical mass of Americans who will go forth and create some sort of long term policy.”
“I would like that to be true — that’d be beautiful — but I don’t think one should confuse the book-buying audience, the audience that reads The Atlantic, with the entire country. It’s a big country.”
Photo Credit: Nina Subin